Ben Franklin once said, “He that can have patience, can have what he will”
He was probably right. But, in a world where technology demands speed and the pressure to produce immediate results is all around us, disciplining ourselves to be patient is tough. Nonetheless, for leaders, it is a challenge worth pursuing. Here’s why:
Patience allows us to suspend judgment long enough to make considered decisions
Often, when the pressure is on, we can make snap decisions that we later come to regret. With a little patience, we can give ourselves the benefit of stopping to consider the impact of the decisions we make and whom we might be affecting by making them. And besides, ill-considered decisions usually result in having to take corrective action anyway.
Patience allows for the development of late bloomers
Not everyone learns at the same rate. Some, like the hare, are quick out of the gate and others, like the tortoise, are slower off the mark. Each needs leadership to get to the finish line. Patience requires us to steer the hare and reach back to encourage the tortoise.
If you are a leader with little patience for the development of those who take more time to learn and grow than you’d like, you could be missing something. After all, Winston Churchill was a late bloomer
Patience can help us to be better Listeners
Most of us recognize the value of listening, both to get to understanding and in building solid relationships. To accomplish either of those things there must be patience enough to suspend our own judgments and focus on what is being said rather than on what we are about to say.
Patience can help us manage stress
Getting to the place where we accept that sometimes we just have to wait can diffuse a lot of negative feeling. If we are frequently impatient with those around us, we are likely also frequently frustrated and possibly angry too. Managing our own expectations long enough to put matters into perspective can relieve a lot of tension and ultimately make work a more pleasant experience.
So, if you buy all that, the next question is, how do we develop patience?
Not being the most patient of people, I’m still working on that one. There are however, a few ideas that come to mind and here they are:
Learn to value the questions as much as the answers
There is a lot of benefit in curiosity and exploration. Patiently peeling away the layers of a problem through questioning and listening does, I think, result in a richer and more rewarding outcome.
Know the “impatient” triggers and practice managing them
To develop our level of patience, I think we need to focus on what makes us snap and the triggers that usually take us there. Once noticed, the rest is about practicing in an equally conscious way to improve our tolerance levels.
Keep the long-term goal in mind
It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of short-term results. After all, they can be very gratifying. The problem is, if we spend all of our time chasing quick results, we can easily get sidetracked and lose sight of our primary purpose. Some opportunities are worth waiting for. And, some goals just take longer to achieve. It seems to me that if they are important, they deserve whatever time it takes to accomplish them.
In the final analysis, it’s probably safe to say we all suffer from bouts of impatience, some of us more chronically than others. Impatience in leadership is particularly troublesome because it gets in the way of our ability to do the right things at the right times.
That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?
Note: this post was originally published in 2010